March 7, 2016 11:00 am
Someone appears at your door claiming to be a utility worker, saying they need to inspect your water pipes, check your meter, investigate a gas leak or examine the wiring in your house. The person at your door may be carrying a walkie-talkie and wearing a hard hat and vest to appear legitimate.
So how can you tell a real utility worker from a scam artist? The key is to be cautious and ask questions. If you don’t, you could unknowingly invite a thief into your home.
Posing as a phony utility worker is a classic scam that often targets seniors living alone. If you remain alert, you’ll spot the warning signs that will help you avoid becoming a victim.
This type of scam is also known as a distraction theft because the victim’s attention is cleverly diverted just long enough for the thief or his accomplice to rifle through the victim’s house helping himself to money, jewelry and other valuables. In order to distract the victim, the imposter may ask you to step outside. Or he may ask you to go to another part of the house to turn the water off or bang on the pipes. These are all ruses to distract the victim’s attention and give the thief time to ransack your house looking for loot to steal.
In order to avoid becoming a crime victim, here are some things to keep in mind when you get that knock on the door from someone claiming to be a utility worker who needs to get into your house:
- Stop and think: Are you expecting anyone to come to your home?
- Remember that most utility companies won’t send a worker to your home unannounced. They usually will make an appointment before showing up.
- Before opening the door, use your peephole or intercom to identify visitors.
- If your door has a chain, put it on before answering your door. It will create a barrier between you and the caller.
- Always ask to see the caller’s employee identification.
- Look for a company logo on the person’s uniform and vehicle.
- Call the utility company to verify the person’s identification. Make sure you have the person wait outside behind a locked door while you do this. A legitimate worker won’t mind waiting while you verify their employment information. The utility company will be able to tell you whether the person is an employee and whether they’ve dispatched a service call to your home or neighborhood.
- If the person is an imposter, contact law enforcement immediately.